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L.A. Master Chorale to Begin Using Concert Supertitles

October 29, 1994|GRETA BEIGEL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In an effort to broaden its audience appeal, the Los Angeles Master Chorale will follow the lead of America's major opera companies and introduce supertitles--texts superimposed on a screen high above the stage--at several of its upcoming concerts at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

In the season opener Sunday night, projected titles will translate the composer's intent in two works on an all-Brahms program: "Alto Rhapsody," with mezzo-soprano Claudia Carlson as soloist, and " Ein deutsches Requiem ," with soprano Tamara Crout Matthews and baritone David Arnold.

The Los Angeles Music Center Opera, which has employed titles since its inception, is loaning the Chorale its equipment. David Anglin, LACMO supertitles coordinator, is supplying the texts on a free-lance basis.

"I'll be translating entire scores, including solo parts and chorus," says Anglin, who claims to be fluent in French and Italian, but is still trying to improve his German.

"In a sense this will be easier than opera where there are more words per square inch and because there is a higher degree of unpredictability in performance. In a choral work, if I go to a rehearsal I am confident the performance will go the same way."

To make things easier, the Chorale is supplying Anglin with an English translation of the "Requiem"--officials are unable to identify the originator of the text--which it has used successfully at previous performances.

"This is an acceptable translation which we respect highly and we have asked David to work from that," says General Manager Maurice Staples. "This goes back to our philosophy that if we provide a translation, the audience is able to better understand and appreciate our repertory."

Whether audiences embrace the innovation remains to be seen. Despite the widespread adoption in the last decade of supertitles in both English and foreign-language opera productions, the debate over their validity continues. While promoters insist that translations make the art form more accessible to the masses, detractors groan about annoying distractions and false readings of what is really transpiring on stage.

But Staples believes that in the long run patrons will find the experience rewarding. Previously, the Chorale has supplied printed texts or translations either directly in the program or as special inserts. That practice necessitated that the house lights remain bright and often resulted in disturbances.

"People arrive at the bottom of the page at the same time, and having 3,000 pages turned in the middle of a sublime moment ruins musical nerves and shatters musical moments," Staples explains. "We have to pay for the printed texts, and although this will cost a little more--he puts the price at $5,000--we believe it will be more beneficial.

"If the text is not understood a great deal can be lost, especially to audiences that are new to choral music. Somewhere out there there will be a purist who will attend the concert, see this and wonder why it is necessary. But we believe by far the majority will appreciate it."

* The Los Angeles Master Chorale opens a seven-concert series Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Supertitles will also accompany selections on the program, "Cancionces Para Los Angeles," on Nov. 19, Bach's St. John Passion on April 2 and Walton's "Belshazzar's Feast" on May 14. Tickets run $18, $14. For information: (213) 626-0901; Ticketmaster (213) 365-3500.

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